RWC Officials process show how amateur rugby still is

Ross Ford could miss Scotland's quarter final

The Rugby World Cup in England has been an enormous success in terms of attendance and viewing figures but the way that the officials are being appointed shows how the game is still battling to become fully professional.

Scotland could be forced to play Australia at Twickenham in their Rugby World Cup quarter final without Ross Ford and Jonny Gray who have been cited for dangerous tackles.

Ford has been cited for a dangerous tackle, while Gray has been cited for the more serious offence of “lifting” an opponent after the Scottish pair were cited by “independent” citing commissioner Scott Nowland of Australia for incidents in the match against Samoa in Newcastle.

Players being cited for foul play is an essential part of the game but as the draw was made years ago and once England had been eliminated two weeks ago Scotland’s most likely next fixture would have been against Australia or Wales.

Why then would World Rugby give an Australian the power to cite and potentially remove players from his home country’s quarter-final ?

There have been plenty of other instances where the officials have been put into situations where their integrity can be questioned.

Wales and Australia faced each other at Twickenham on Saturday and for at least two weeks it has been known that the loser of the match would most likely face South Africa in the quarterfinals. Why then did World Rugby put two South African officials in charge of that match ?

All of the officials in rugby are considered “independent” officials of their country and there is no evidence to suggest that any of the officials have shown bias but World Rugby who appoint the officials for matches should not be putting the officials into positions where their professionalism can be brought into question.

Suspensions in the Rugby World Cup have also undermined the tournament due to a lack of consistency.

Australian flanker Michael Hooper was cited for running in from 10m out of a ruck and shoulder charging England fullback Mike Brown in a clear out. He was suspended for one week which suggests that he should have been carded in the match. At the time the TMO looked at the tackle and only suggested that a penalty was enough sanction for the act.

Hooper’s suspension came a day before Samoan winger was suspended for five weeks for running with the ball through a tackle and “striking with the knee”. When video of the incident emerged fans across the world expressed their outrage at the inconsistency from the officials. Five weeks for essentially running with the ball yet a shoulder charge gets one week.

The Rugby World Cup is not only about finding a Rugby World Cup champion but is also about getting young players interested in rugby. When officials of game at the highest level don’t clamp down hard enough on acts of foul play the youth will be turned away from the game. When a player runs with the ball and gets suspended for five times the length of a shoulder charge the next generation of rugby players won’t be inspired to take up the game.

If Scotland do lose Ford and Gray for their Quarter final they will be significantly weakened and there will be rumbles from Scotland of match fixing which will undermine the tournament’s integrity.

 

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